Officials cite safety concerns at site, quality of product as reasons for change
By Joe Beck -- email@example.com
FRONT ROYAL -- The Warren County Public Schools has switched fuel vendors in the hope of obtaining better quality fuel and easing safety worries at the former vendor's fueling site.
The action comes after the board earlier this month approved entering a contract with Quarles Petroleum and dropping its association with H.N. Funkhouser & Co. for the remainder of the school year.
The board took the action in response to a written recommendation by Aaron L. Mitchell II, director of transportation, who cited several reasons for dissatisfaction with Funkhouser.
Rob Ballentine, the school system's director of finance, spoke on behalf of Mitchell, who was absent from the board meeting.
Ballentine said Funkhouser's fuel was leaving a clay and sand mix in the fuel filters of fleet vehicles. He said obtaining fuel from a new source increased the chances that the school system will not have to pay additional costs for treating fuel to improve it.
He said the change may also reduce maintenance costs to some vehicles.
Robert Claytor, president of Funkhouser, strenuously denied that any problems with fuel quality could be blamed on his business.
"I don't know what they are talking about," Claytor said Tuesday. "We buy our fuel from the same places that Quarles buys their fuel. I can't imagine how sand or clay or anything like that could get in the fuel."
Claytor raised the possibility of sabotage or a prank by children as an explanation for any impurities found in the fuel.
Ballentine also told the board that the school system's 60 or so buses have trouble
maneuvering around pumps at the Funkhouser fueling site on Commerce Avenue.
Claytor said company managers have told the school board that they could relieve the problem by staggering the times at which buses arrive at the refueling facility. He said his company and Quarles each have four fueling stations available at their sites, although he acknowledged the presence of a nearby convenience store adds to congestion around his company's facility.
Ballentine estimated the school system pays $30,000 to $33,000 a month to fuel its vehicles. He estimated the length of the system's relationship with Funkhouser at four or five years, although Claytor said he thought it was six to nine years.
The school system's agreement with Quarles runs through June 30 and could be renewed by the board for next year. The agreement is part of a contract between Quarles and the Loudoun County school system. Under the contract, Quarles agrees to extend the same price set for Loudoun schools to other jurisdictions in Northern Virginia that choose to be added to the contract through a rider provision. Ballentine said Warren County is one of the jurisdictions eligible to be included in the Loudoun contract.